Coffee was first brought to the island of Jamaica in the early 18th century. In 1728, the governor of the island, Sir Nicholas Lawes, brought 8 coffee seedlings over from Martinique. He then planted those seedlings at Temple Hall.
At the same time, an anonymous fellow from Vere imported a number of seedlings from Martinique and planted them on his own property as well.
In fewer than 10 years, the local coffee industry in Jamaica was flourishing. Refugees from Haiti were flooding into the island. As part of the deal struck to allow them to stay, they shared their knowledge about growing coffee in the Caribbean.
After this initial expansion, the coffee industry experienced a sharp reduction in production. Slaves stopped working, which meant property owners lost their experience. Coffee would become a small-scale industry for more than a century. By 1943, importers were refusing Jamaican coffee because of its overly poor quality.
It was at that point the government stepped in to help redevelop the local coffee industry. Specific regulations on quality, growing, and geographic location were created. Over the next 30 years, Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee would come to be regarded as the world’s best coffee.
Important Jamaica Coffee Industry Statistics
#1. The unique combination of altitude and shade contribute to the distinctive flavor of Jamaican coffee. 85% of the mountains where the coffee grows, between 2,000-5,000 feet in most areas, is covered with forest. (Martinez Fine Coffees)
#2. To be certified as Jamaican Blue Coffee, it must be cultivated at a minimum of 1,800 feet. It cannot be cultivated at an altitude above 5,500 feet. (Martinez Fine Coffees)
#3. Output levels for the Jamaica coffee industry are still very small in size and scope. During a good harvest, about 5 million pounds of coffee is grown. In comparison, Panama produces more than 13 million pounds of coffee annually, while the Dominican Republic produces over 110 million pounds of coffee. (Coffee Detective)
#4. Genuine Blue Mountain coffee is extremely scarce for the rest of the world. 80% of the crop that is grown each year is exported to Japan. (Coffee Detective)
#5. One of the reasons why Jamaican coffee is grown at a small scale is the climate on the island. At the higher elevations, temperatures stay cooler throughout the year. The coffee requires almost 10 months, from blooming to harvest. That’s 50% longer than most other growing regions. (Coffee Detective)
#6. Some coffee growing areas are as steep as 70 degrees, which means virtually all clusters in some areas must be picked by hand. (Coffee Detective)
#7. For the typical harvest, about 85% of the coffee beans that are inspected have a high enough quality to be exported. Once approved, the remaining beans are inspected by hand to ensure any defective beans are removed from the batch. (Coffee Detective)
#8. A majority of the coffee that is exported from Jamaica occurs as a green bean export. In 2000, a record year of production allowed for 1.85 million kg of green coffee beans to be exported. (Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica)
#9. Roasted and soluble coffee products are also part of the export market, though in much smaller numbers. On average, about 20,000 kg of roasted coffee and 50,000 kg of soluble coffee is exported each year. (Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica)
#10. The United States receives, on average, about 5% of the total exports from the Jamaica coffee industry. The European Union receives another 5% of the exports. The rest of the world then must compete for the remainder that is available. (Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica)
#11. The U.S. receives the bulk of the roasted and soluble coffee products from Jamaica, including more than half of soluble exports. (Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica)
#12. Jamaica only has 28,000 acres that are designated for coffee cultivation. Out of that acreage, just 9,000 acres is designated for Blue Mountain coffee. (Xaymaca Coffee)
#13. The curing process for Blue Mountain coffee beans takes no less than 8 weeks. Once harvested, the beans are sun-dried. Then they are stored and cured in wooden silos or jute sacks after processing. (Xaymaca Coffee)
#14. Authentic Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is one of the most expensive coffees in the world today. A 5-pound package of 100% Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee can retail for as much as $145 in today’s market in a whole-bean state.
#15. In total, the Jamaica coffee industry is responsible for just 0.05% of the world’s overall coffee production each year. (Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica)
#16. 92% of the farmers that grow coffee in Jamaica have farms that are 5 acres or less in size. There are about 7,600 coffee farmers that help to create the Blue Mountain coffee. (Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica)
#17. In 1988, Hurricane Gilbert damaged 70% of the fields and factories that helped to produce coffee for the industry. It virtually shut down the industry for 24 months straight. Full production has only been recently resorted to all parts of the industry. (Country Traders)
Jamaica Coffee Trends and Forecast
Coffee is one of the hottest commodities on our planet today. The average coffee consumer will drink 3 cups of coffee each day, which equates to 66 billion cups of coffee each year. 56% of Americans consider themselves to be coffee drinkers.
The United States, however, is nowhere near the top coffee consuming nation in the world. That honor goes to Finland, where the average person purchases more than 20 pounds of coffee each year. Consumers in Sweden, Switzerland, France, Italy, and Germany all purchase more than 10 pounds of coffee annually.
The United States ranks just above Japan, where consumers purchase about 7 pounds of coffee annually.
That means the Jamaica coffee industry faces a trend of increased demand and competition. That’s especially true for Blue Mountain coffee, which is considered as one of the world’s first specialty coffees. Specialty coffee sales have a 20% CAGR in the United States and account for almost $1.5 billion in sales.
The Jamaica Coffee industry has created a set of strict standards that must be followed. Their product is naturally scarce everywhere but Japan. With continued production levels remaining consistent, the industry looks to be able to resist the competitive forces that are driving other specialty coffees out of business.